Secretary of State John Kerry admitted to Al-Arabiya that it’s “very disturbing” how Ayatollah Ali Khamenei continues talking about destroying the U.S. and Israel after signing the P5+1 nuclear agreement.
Kerry said he would be pitching Gulf partners on “all of the ways in which this agreement, in fact, makes the Gulf states and the region safer.”
“I will also discuss with them at great length the things that the United States of America is going to do, working with them, in order to push back against the terror and counterterrorism efforts and other activities in the region that are very alarming to them,” he said, adding “it’s a chance for them to ask me any misgivings they have.”
Al-Arabiya’s Nadia Bilbassy-Charters asked Kerry, “Can the United States stop the nefarious activities of Iran in four Arab capitals?”
And Kerry replied with a question. “Is it better to push back against those activities against an Iran with a nuclear weapon or an Iran without one? Obviously, without one. So you have to begin somewhere.”
When asked about the cash influx that will line the pockets of the Revolutionary Guard and Hezbollah and Houthis and Assad, Kerry answered with another question: “Who has more cash? Saudi Arabia and the Emirates and Qatar, or Iran?”
“Well, maybe they need to become more proactive in pushing back against activities so people understand they don’t have a free playing field on which to deal,” he continued. “The point I’m making is that $100 billion is nothing compared to what gets spent every year in the region. Iran’s military budget is $15 billion. The Gulf states’ military budget is $130 billion.”
Kerry said he’d had “several conversations” with Assad arms supplier Russia – “one with President Putin, several with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – about how we might try to deal more effectively with Syria.”
On Khamenei’s threatening Eid statements about staying at war with the Great Satan: “I don’t know how to interpret it at this point in time, except to take it at face value, that that’s his policy,” Kerry said. “But I do know that often comments are made publicly and things can evolve that are different. If it is the policy, it’s very disturbing, it’s very troubling, and we’ll have to wait and see. But that’s one of the reasons for my meeting with all of the Gulf States; it’s one of the reasons for our being very attentive to guaranteeing the security of the region. And we are not kidding when we talk about the importance of pushing back against extremism, against support for terrorism and proxies who are destabilizing other countries. It’s unacceptable.”
The Obama administration has constantly said that inflammatory statements from the supreme leader are just fodder for domestic hardliner consumption.
Asked if Iran will cheat on the agreement, Kerry said, “I have no idea. I’m not going to accuse somebody of cheating before somebody does, but I will tell you that this agreement is built so that you’re not surprised, so that you know you have the mechanisms in place to prevent it.”